Culinary Herbs Are Easy to Grow

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Chives bloom in summer. In addition to the leaves, the blossoms of many herbs are edible.

Culinary herbs are among the easiest edible plants you can grow at home. Most herbs naturally have few pest problems – even the deer tend to leave them alone. All that most herbs need to thrive is a sunny spot and well-drained soil. If you have heavy clay, grow herbs in raised beds that have been filled with a blend of soil and compost. Another option is to grow herbs in containers on a patio or deck.

Containers for growing herbs should be filled with potting soil but take care not to over water or over fertilize them. Most herbs grow best and develop more intense flavor when grown under dry conditions and low nutrient levels.

Many popular culinary herbs are perennials that live for several years, which means you can plant once and harvest fresh herbs as you need them for years to come. Other herbs are annuals that must be planted each season. Some annual herbs are planted in the spring to harvest through the summer while others are planted in fall and late winter to harvest during the cooler times of the year.

Following are tips for growing popular culinary herbs in central North Carolina:

Annual Herbs

  • Basil is the most popular annual herb for summer and is easily grown from seed. Plant a new batch every three to four weeks for an endless supply of basil leaves until frost. Bees love basil flowers – allow older plants to bloom to attract bees to your garden that will help pollinate summer vegetables.
  • Parsley, dill and cilantro do not grow well during the heat of summer. Plant these cool season herbs in August for a fall crop and again in March for a spring crop. Parsley may even survive the winter outdoors.
  • Allow cilantro to bloom if you wish to collect its seeds, which are known as the spice coriander.
  • Culinary ginger and lemongrass are perennials but are not winter hardy in our climate. Ginger rhizomes can be planted outside in spring and harvested in fall before frost. Grow lemongrass in beds or containers for the summer but bring it indoors for the winter.

Perennial Herbs

  • Thyme, oregano, sage, and sweet marjoram need excellent drainage and sun to thrive.
  • Rosemary is a drought tolerant, small to medium sized shrub that grows three to four feet tall and wide. One or two plants will provide most cooks with all the rosemary they need.
  • Mints, such as peppermint and spearmint, tolerate more shade than other herbs but are vigorous spreaders and can quickly colonize an entire garden. Keep these plants in containers or plant them in an isolated location where they will not get out of control.
  • Chives and garlic chives grow from small bulbs. Both their leaves and flowers are edible. If the flowers are left to set seed, both plants will self-sow in the garden.

Herb Workshop

Review slides and resources shared during a June 2015 workshop on growing and using culinary herbs

Learn more from these NC State Extension fact sheets:

Use Extension Search to find research based information from Cooperative Extension systems across the U.S.

Visit your local Cooperative Extension center to learn more about gardening and landscape care. Find your local county Extension center.

Subscribe to the Chatham Gardener email list to receive timely updates on sustainable lawn, garden, and landscape care for the central NC Piedmont.